Lelisa Desisa, Kim Smith win BAA Half Marathon titles

A course record was set in the BAA Half Marathon by Kim Smith in the women’s race.
Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe
A course record was set in the BAA Half Marathon by Kim Smith in the women’s race.

Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon on Sunday, breaking the course record that was set just last year.

Desisa’s time of 1 hour 34 seconds beat the 1:01:44 set by Allan Kiprono.

A third-place finish gave Stephen Sambu of Kenya the BAA Distance Medley title. His cumulative lead over Kiprono through the first two races — the medley includes a 5-kilometer race in April and a 10K in June — was 26 seconds, and he did more than enough to keep the lead and win the overall title.


On the women’s side, New Zealand native Kim Smith set an event record of her own en route to winning her second straight BAA Half Marathon, and she also clinched her second straight Distance Medley title.

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The Providence resident finished in 1:09:14, easily beating the previous record of 1:10:52. Smith and Sambu each won $100,000 for their Distance Medley victories.

Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe
Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia also set a record in the men’s race.

“My coach told me to try and run as easy as I could until 10 miles,” Smith said. “I kind of went out hard, and then I decided if I could just get rid of them early, there would be less pressure for that $100,000 . . . I stayed a pretty decent pace and I just dropped them.

“The last 4 or 5 miles I felt like I was running within myself in kind of an easy area . . . I haven’t raced since the BAA 10K [because] I was injured, so this was my first race so I probably got a little excited and little bit too fast at the start, but it worked out well in the end.”

In the men’s race, a large pack stuck together for the early stages, and six runners went through the 10K mark in 28:17. Kenyan Lani Rutto was leading, while Desisa hung right with him along with Sambu and Kenyans Daniel Salel, Sam Chelanga, and Kiprono.


Rutto lost his lead and began to fall back by the 8-mile mark. By the time the pack went through 10 miles, Kiprono had fallen back as well, leaving Salel, Sambu, Desisa, and Chelanga battling over the final 3.1 miles.

As the runners rounded Franklin Park and entered White Stadium, it became clear Desisa was going to win as he opened a strong lead in the final mile.

“I [followed] the others [for] most of time, then after 10 miles I [pushed] and I [came] through [the finish],” he said. “When we arrived [at the stadium] nobody followed me; they were very tired.”

Salel and Sambu finished second and third, followed by Chelanga and Rutto. All of the runners in the top five bettered the previous course record

Smith, on the other hand, won the women’s title by dominating the second half of the race. She broke away from Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia just before the 7-mile mark, increasing her lead to more than 34 seconds by the time she hit 9 miles, finally beating Kiros by 49 seconds. Alice Kimutai of Kenya took third, with Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz of Broomfield, Colo., fourth, and Millicent Kuria of Kenya fifth.


Smith held an 11-second advantage over Kuria in the Distance Medley standings going into Sunday’s race. Kuria was the only woman within 2:30 of Smith in the cumulative time.

In the wheelchair division, Tony Nogueira of New Jersey won his eighth men’s title in 55:06. Carla Trodella of Danvers won the women’s title in 2:12:25.

Desisa said he appreciates the support he has gotten in his two major Boston victories, and has enjoyed the time he has spent competing here. In a gesture of good will following the Boston Marathon bombings, Desisa gave his winner’s medal back to the city when he ran the 10K in June.

“I like Boston [and] the people of Boston,” he said. “And I am considering myself now one of the people of Boston.”

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The Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women will take place Monday, starting on Beacon Street and ending on Charles Street between the Public Gardens and Boston Common. Hellen Jemutai was the winner last year, finishing in 32:29.8.

Jeff Pini can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @jpini441.